From its inception more than 50 years ago, Bundaberg Meals on Wheels has grown to become a driving force within the community.
Every day of the week, the community run organisation delivers nutritious meals to hundreds of vulnerable residents around the Bundaberg Region.
To celebrate National Meals on Wheels Day on 26 August, Bundaberg Now is shining the spotlight on the dedicated volunteers and staff who rose to the challenge of working through the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure a warm meal was delivered to the region's most vulnerable.
As President Jeff McColl said, the organisation provides more than just a meal.
“These people depend on us for their meals, but for the regular ones it’s also the interaction with our volunteers, as they might be the only people they’ve seen that week,” Jeff said.
Last year the organisation made and delivered over 50,000 meals.
Jeff said the COVID pandemic saw an increase in meal orders, but also prompted the development of an insurance plan that would ensure meals would still be delivered if harsher restrictions were put in place.
“We’ve supplied an extra 10,000 meals above last year's, so we’ve gotten a lot of new customers during the pandemic,” Jeff said.
“Within their pack they get a sandwich, soup, a main meal, desert and juice for $10, which has all been cooked or prepared in the morning and delivered hot.”
“It’s certainly a lot of work, but we were prepared for the pandemic and we hired a shipping container freezer and stored a number of frozen meals off site just in case someone got a positive result as we could then continue to supply meals while we were deep cleaned.”
Volunteers the heart of the organisation
Much of the organisation’s success is attributed to the instrumental work of volunteers.
Around 50 volunteers produce and deliver over 160 meals every day.
One of those volunteers is Peter Donghi OAM, who since 2003, has donated his time to preparing and producing meals for those unable to make their own.
“My reason for being here is whatever role I’m doing is helping someone else who can’t help themselves, and that’s important.”
“We provide the necessary food and it’s all very nutritious, cooked daily and presented well and there’s plenty of it.”
Community and Council support
Much of the produce is donated and President Jeff McColl acknowledged the many farmers within the region who supported the organisation with donations of fresh produce.
“We get fantastic support from the whole community and particularly the farming community,” Jeff said.
“We have a few people that go out every Monday and Friday and come back with a van full of produce.
“We get tremendous support even from the community and when the pandemic was on, a lot of people who couldn’t work would come and donate their time which was immensely appreciated.”
Bundaberg Regional Council is also supporting the work of Meals and Wheels and has recognised the day with staff doing their bit to support the group by ordering over 80 meals.
Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey said National Meals on Wheels Day was a chance to stop and say thanks to volunteers who dedicated their time to others.
“By having access to good, healthy food, vulnerable residents such as our elderly residents and people with a disability can live more independently,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“What can’t be forgotten is that without the help of more than 50 volunteers here in Bundaberg, and thousands more across Australia, this long-standing and valued program simply wouldn’t exist.”
- Other news: Bundaberg Meals on Wheels deliver 51,300 meals